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John Stockton understands that some Utah Jazz fans are unhappy with the team's apparent lack of activity in the offseason player market.

He's just not sure he would have done differently if he'd been the team's general manager."You can go out and try to buy Shaquille O'Neal, but one injury and they (the Lakers) are hamstrung," Stockton said. "Sometimes doing what the Joneses do isn't the best way to go."

Guard Jeff Hornacek also questioned the wisdom of stripping a team's bench to be able to pay a superstar.

"Those guys, I guess they're praying nobody gets hurt, especially the Rockets," he said.

Asked what the move of O'Neal to L.A. would mean to the league, the Jazz veterans offered differing opinions.

"Everybody wants to make a big deal out of that," said a skeptical Karl Malone. "It's a long season. It will be interesting to see what happens."

Stockton was more respectful.

"He is such a physical presence on both ends of the floor that you have to divert a lot of attention to him," he said.

"Obviously, it will take something away from Orlando," said guard Jeff Hornacek. "And it means another team in the West we have to deal with."

Stockton said Barkley can do a lot for Houston, with or without a bench.

"I counted him out once before, when he went to Phoenix," he said. "I didn't think he'd help them that much. I won't make that mistake again. He's an incredible talent."

Hornacek said that with several improved teams in the West, he doesn't think any team will sprint away from the pack.

"I don't see anyone (in the West) winning 62, 63 games," he said. "The team with the best record may only have 58 wins."

NEW EXPERIENCE: Guard Brooks Thompson says he can't help wondering if he'll survive the Jazz's final cut Thursday.

"I think everybody, well, most everybody, should think about that," he said, after three players were cut on Tuesday. "It still might be. You just have to do what you can. I hope I'm not on the bubble."

His future as a Jazzman might not be an issue, except that he's played - by his own admission - poorly in the preseason.

"I'm disappointed with the way I've shot the ball," he said, referring to his team-low 28.1 percent shooting percentage.

Thompson says he's been so busy trying to figure out how to fit into the Jazz system that he hasn't been able to relax and shoot.

"A lot of my problem is I'm thinking about what he (coach Jerry Sloan) wants, and it takes away from my playing," he said. "Once I get to know exactly what they want . . . It's going to take some time. This has been a 360-degree turnaround from what I experienced in Orlando."

Asked to elaborate about that last comment, Thompson said, "The whole environment is different. Here it's more demanding, which I think is positive. I've been in this league for two years and never had a word said to me about defense. Coach Sloan is teaching me to play better defense."

PERSONAL OPINION: It's become popular to say that Chris Morris, if he plays up to his potential, could really help the Jazz.

While that is unquestionably true, it's sort of like saying that if he could throw 100 mph, he'd be pitching in the big leagues.

And either statement is equally likely.

Sloan says all the right things about Morris, praising him whenever possible, while reminding us that Morris' game needs work.

"Chris still has a tendency to hang back on defense, and we can't afford that," Sloan said. "But he has improved a lot in that area, from where he was last year. His conditioning is better, his attitude is better. He's only missed one practice, and to me, that shows a lot of improvement. He's trying harder and he understands more what we expect. If Chris will play within what we're trying to do, and work on his defense, he can help us."

There's that "If" cropping up again.

So here's the opinion (and I hope I'm wrong): Morris will never be a major contributor on this team, because he lacks competitive fire. The physical ability is there, but the commitment to doing whatever it takes to win isn't. And it never will be. It's something a guy either has or doesn't.